Some real good news

by John Q on July 19, 2005

If we’re looking for good news from the Islamic world, as most of us are, can I suggest that the best place to look just now is right next door (to Australia, that is) in Indonesia[1]. The Indonesian government has just signed a peace agreement with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). There’s plenty more to be done, and such agreements have failed before, but the chances this time look better than ever, as GAM has finally abandoned its demand for independence and the central government seems willing, for the first time, to concede real autonomy.
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Greif on Economic History

by Henry Farrell on July 19, 2005

I see that Avner Greif has made his forthcoming book on economic history “available for download”: It tackles the transition from a mediaeval economy in which people traded with identifiable others whom they knew well to a modern economy based on impersonal exchange. A considerable nuisance for me, as I’m trying to write a book that talks to some more-or-less related themes, and now have a few hundred more pages of weighty ideas to ingest (which isn’t to say that the ingestion won’t be beneficial). I’ll be especially interested to see how the book is received both by Greif’s fellow economists and by economic sociologists. Greif argues that the two ought to be talking to each other much more than they do, and the book seems to be at least in part intended as an object lesson in how the two approaches can inform each other. On the one hand, I have the impression that most economists refuse on principle to believe that economic sociologists could have anything useful to tell them. On the other, when economic sociologists see game theorists and rational choice types writing about sociological themes, their first reaction is often to “man the barricades”: against the imperial oppressor. However, there’s a very interesting literature building up in the no-mans-land between the trenches – economists who are beginning to realize that they need a stronger theory of cognition and of the kinds of informal order that sociologists have been exploring for decades, and sociologists who are interested in the kinds of action-oriented theories of human behaviour that more thoughtful rational choice types have been trying to develop. Greif’s book is likely to attract attention from both sides and from those in between; with a bit of luck it’ll help push on the process of dialogue a little.

Origins Bomb

by John Holbo on July 19, 2005

I’m sorry to get you worried about explosions two posts running, but you really should be reading Countdown to Annihilation! at Hitherby Dragons. (Especially PZ, who likes to keep abreast of scientific advances along these lines.) I feel bad excerpting just the premise because, though hilarious, it’s almost the least hiliarious bit. Make sure to start with the linked segment, then consult ‘latest entries’ for parts II, III & IV and the Lizard Cops bonus wossname.

"There!" says Mr. Lancaster. He rolls back the platform. He dusts
himself off. He rises. "It’s a perfect Origins Bomb, if I do say so

"Perfection is for God alone," corrects Mrs. Lancaster.

"Oh, Mrs. Lancaster," says Mr. Lancaster, beeping her nose. "You do keep me honest."

"What’s it do?" Iphigenia asks.

"It’s a way to prove Creationism right for once and for all," says Mr. Lancaster. "When I push this button—"

Here he indicates a large red button labeled "Emergency Proof of Creationism."

"—everything in the universe that is older than ten thousand years
old, and every human who evolved from lower life forms, blows up!"

Iphigenia frowns. "But that’s nobody. You said that people were made by God."

Mr. Lancaster’s eyes dance.

Iphigenia will always remember this moment. When Mr. Lancaster is
very happy his eyes get a marvelous crinkle at the edges. It makes
Iphigenia want to laugh and hug him. And sometimes he will sweep her up
and spin her around, or tell her a wonderful secret, like where the
Apostle Paul is really buried, or race her through the house around and
around and around.

His eyes are crinkly like that now.

"That’s the marvel of it," he says, "The absolute marvel of it! It’s
the world’s deadliest bomb—and it won’t hurt hardly anything!"

"We expect there are a few things that will qualify," explains Mrs.
Lancaster. "Sinister bloodlines descended from lizards, ancient
gyroscopes from alternate timelines, the angels of nations, and so
forth. Exceptions. Nothing the world can’t do without."

Those guys at Powerline would totally push the button.

I was delighted when a commenter found my comment spam fiction worthy of connecting with Rebecca Borgstrom’s (previously unknown to me) spam fiction "The Noise Dreams of Signal." She’s got this Roald Dahl, Donald Barthelme sort of sensibility, with a taroty aftertaste worthy of either or both Crowleys. Reminds me of this story I’m never going to write about a congregation of fundamentalist Christian tarot card users who insist on literal readings of the text. ‘You’re going to die, and you’re going to see four cups, and six wands, and a fool, and a guy hanging upside down …’ Course it turns out that’s just how it goes.) I, for one, welcome our new Snavering Lavelwod overlords. (Say it three times fast.)